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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  February 25, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm EST

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the presiding officer: does any senator wish to vote or change his or her vote? if not, the ayes are 93, the nays are zero. senate resolution 374 is approved. under the previous order, the preamble is agreed to and the motions to reconsider are considered made and laid upon the table. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. lankford: i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. ms. mikulski: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: mr. president, i rise to speak as if in morning business on an issue before the american people, and that is the supreme court vacancy. mr. president, i rise today to
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express my very deep, deep disappointment in my republican colleagues for vowing to block president obama's nomination, vowing to block president obama's nominee for filling the vacancy on the supreme court. each and every senator serving in this chamber was elected by the american people, and we took an oath to uphold the constitution. in this matter, the constitution is very clear. article 2, section 2 says the president shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the senate shall appoint judges of the supreme court. mr. president, it doesn't say the president, oh, he has an hour and a half left, it doesn't
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say give a time limit on the president. if you're president and you have a four-year term, you have the authority and duty to exercise your obligations under the constitution for a full four years. and the senate has a duty to provide advice and consent. there are no waivers for election years. i urge my colleagues do your job, follow the constitution and live up to the constitution. the constitution doesn't say that in an election year, delay, delay, delay. the word delay doesn't even appear in the constitution, that in the hope that one day you'll get your way. republicans have said that the senate must wait until the people have spoken by electing a new president in november, but the american people have already spoken. they elected president obama in 2008, and they re-elected him in
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2012. barack obama is our president now until noon, january 20, 2017 if the founders wanted a three-year term, they would have written that in the constitution, but they mandated a full, complete -- four complete years. now the other party wants to deny the president the legitimacy and the authority of his office. even george washington had his nominee considered during a presidential year with three of his candidates confirmed. what was good enough for the first congress under george washington should be good enough for this congress now under president obama. president obama and i will both be closing our offices in january of 2017, but that doesn't mean we're done working for the american people today.
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there's a lot of work to be done. president obama has the constitutional duty to submit a nomination, to fill a vacancy left with justice scalia's passing. this duty is not suspended in an election year. the constitution is clear about the president's authority. the president must mull fill his -- must fulfill his duty and we must do our job. the issue is not about executive orders or checking executive powers or interpreting law books. it is about following the constitution. so i say to the republicans on this side of the aisle, please do your job. your constituents elected you to this position to again follow the constitution. now, if you don't like the nominee that the president has, vote no but follow the process.
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the president will nominate. we go through a courtesy process where the nominee calls upon each senator and then there are hearings. there's a hearing and maybe there's several days of hearings and then there is a vote. i am calling for following the process mandated by the constitution and mandated by our traditions. the president nominates. let's meet with the nominee. let's hold the hearings, follow the process, and let's bring it to a vote. over the last 40 years, the average time it's taken for the senate to act is only 67 days from nomination to confirmation. so to say that we don't have enough time just doesn't work. we have ten months, 330 days left in this president's administration to do this job. now, some of my colleagues say
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there's precedence for this obstructionism. chairman grassley, the chair of the judiciary committee, cited four times in our history where a president did not nominate someone to fill a vacancy during an election year. well, those numbers are right, but guess what? the vacancy occurred after the senate had adjourned for the year. none of those presidents could have nominated a candidate because the senate wasn't in session. for the past 100 years, every supreme court nominee has been acted upon. even if they get a disapproval vote in the committee, they still got a vote in the senate. robert bourque in 1987 was voted down in the committee. he still got a vote on the floor where he was voted down. clarence thomas in 1991, one of the most contentious and controversial supreme court nominations that i had -- could
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participate in was voted by the committee without recommendation. he got a vote on the floor where he was approved 52-48. these candidates each had their day to be evaluated. each senator had the ability to provide their advice and consent or in some cases not consent. i didn't always vote yes on the nominee, but i certainly supported the processes that we have here. we never denied a sitting president his duty to provide a nominee. this is of utmost importance to our nation. it really is. the supreme court is unique. it is the highest court of the land with real and lasting impact on american lives. to obstruct a supreme court nominee for political reasons would be absolutely
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unprecedented. until this vacancy's filled, the supreme court is left with eight members with the potential for tie votes. if there's a tie vote in a decision, the ruling of the lower court remains as if the supreme court never heard the case. and in some cases that leaves disagreement among courts leaving our laws at odds with each other. if this vacancy lasts until the next president, the supreme court could be left without members for two terms of the court. some of the cases with the most impact on our history have been decided in 5-4 votes. that takes me to some cases particularly of concern to me. what if we have a tie decision? we would still be stuck in gridlock. the senate knows that i've been very involved in equal pay for
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equal work. will is the famous ledbetter case versus the goodyear tire company. it was decided 5-4. she faced injustice not only at her job but in the courts. at the urging of justice ginsburg, the senate provided a legislative remedy to correct that injustice. if we had a tie, we might not have ever been able to resolve this issue both through the court and through the senate. this is what democracy is supposed to be. but then we get to another case that was just amazing. that's bush versus gore. do we all remember florida in the 2000 election? do we all remember the hanging chads? do we all remember days when we weren't really sure who had won the election? al gore or george bush? but, you know, it was america.
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there were no tanks in the streets. schoolchildren were able to go about learning what america is all about and get ready for the new century. we were moving ahead because the process moved through the courts. when it came to a decision, bush versus gore was decided 5-4. can you imagine now if we had a tied court? we would have a constitutional crisis and we would have the crisis over who was the legitimate president of the united states. we can't have this again. i hope that when the voters make their decisions in november on who they want to be the next president, that it is clear and decisive and we don't end up before the supreme court. but should we, we need to have a court that is not going to end
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in a tie. and we have done our job to make sure that there are nine, n-i-n-e, on the supreme court. i really in the interest of our country, first of all, follow the constitution. do your job and also to say to the world we are a nation of law. we encourage people all over the world that are emerging from often authoritarian a screams -- regimes or chaotic situations, write a constitution and live by it. we wrote a constitution. let's live by it. and i would say that we need to follow what we say we were elected to do, that we swore an oath to do. president obama must do his job. i urge the republicans to do
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your job. let's follow the constitution, live up to the constitution. when the president makes his nomination, let's open our doors so we can meet with that nominee. let's hold a hearing or multiple hearings if necessary and then let's hold a vote on the senate floor. let's be accountable by deeds of our votes, not just simply by avoiding our responsibility. mr. president, i yield the floor. and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call being dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, for the information of all senators, senator murkowski and senator cantwell and many others continue to work diligently on a way to wrap up the energy bill and to deal with the flint issue. in the meantime, i'll be shortly filing cloture on a motion to proceed to the opioid bill and i'm hopeful that we can reach an agreement to finish this bill with just a handful of amendments next week.
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so i move to proceed to calendar number 369, s. 524. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of s. 5 24-rbgs a bill to authorize the attorney general to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. mr. mcconnell: i send a cloture motion to the desk. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion: we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on motion to proceed to calendar number 369, s. 3525, t-4, a bill to authorize the attorney general to are award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use signed by 1 senators as follows -- mr. mcconnell: ask consent that the reading of the names be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that the mandatory quorum call be waived. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. a senator: i'm back -- the presiding officer: we're in a quorum call. a senator: i ask that the call of the quorum be vitiate td. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: i'm back on the floor for my edition of waste of the week. i do them each week to highlight waste, fraud and abuse in simple ways that we can save the taxpayers dollars from being
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misused. mr. coats: last year in my 18th waste of the week speech, i detailed an investigation by the nonpartisan government accountability office that discovered fraudulent applications were being accepted by healthcare.gov, that's the government website for choosing obama care plans. i discussed the waste, fraud and abuse of obama care subsidies that were being awarded to fraudulent politic -- applicants. as part of that investigation, general accountability office investigators purposefully submitted 12 fraudulent applications. they wanted to test the system. they wanted to see how well the system works. so they drew up 12 deliberately fraudulent applications just to see how -- what the response would be. they submitted it to health
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care.gov. 11 of them came back as approved. only one was called out for saying wait a minute, we didn't have the appropriate information or we didn't do the fact checking. one of those they said this one doesn't match. but 11 apparently weren't even fact checked. and 11 of them came back. now, the general accountability office said i think this is maybe the canary in the coal mine. this ought to be a signal that this program is being abused and when 11 out of 12 come back with an acceptable stamp for approval and then the subsidies given to the fraudulent individuals, you would think that the government would take notice of this and simply say we've got to get a hold of this. now, after the investigation,
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after this was made public, not just by me and the floor here of the united states senate. it ought to have been embarrassing to the agencies that are handling this, the center for medicare, medicaid disbursement. you would think that they would jump on this. if i were heading up this agency, if i had anything to do with this at all, i would either be firing somebody or i would be putting reforms in place to make sure this never happened again. you would think that this report would have gotten some kind of action. but this week the general accountability office released a new report detailing how this obama administration continues to take -- and this is their words -- take a passive approach to dealing with the potential -- what they say is potential fraud in the obama care program. the g.a.o. report outlines how
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healthcare.gov itself is still, they say, still plagued by serious operational problems that lead to fraud and abuse. they found that in 1914 over four million obama care applicants received a total of -- get this -- $1.7 billion in taxpayer subsidies despite these unresolved documentation errors. and what this means is that the healthcare.gov site is allowing people to sign up for and receive obama care benefits without proper verification. and when you've had a previous investigation that said 11 out of 12, more than 90% of the applications were stamped approved and subsidies paid without verification or with faulty verification, you would think they by now would have cleaned this up.
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hundreds of thousands of people have been able to get their obama care applications approved without having their eligibility verified. that's become clear. as g.a.o. investigators bluntly stated in the report healthcare.gov is and i quote, is at risk of granting eligibility to and making subsidy payments on behalf of individuals who are unable -- excuse me -- ineligible to enroll. the g.a.o. said one of the biggest problems with healthcare.gov is that the centers for medicare and medicaid services called cms which is responsible for the oversight and management of obama care did not resolve social security number inconsistencies for thousands of applications. when you submit your identity, you give the social security number. it goes to cms. c.m.s. is supposed to check this to see if it's a legitimate social security number and if it
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isn't, they obviously cannot or should not issue the subsidy and approve the application. but instead c. mrchlts s. approved -- c.m.s. approved subsidized coverage without securing those numbers from the applicants potentially allowing access to illegal immigrants or other eligible individuals. so word gets around. hey, you don't even need to put your social security number on there or put a false social security number on there. you're going to get the subsidy. this is how your government is spending your tax dollars in an outrageous way to pump up the obama care and we keep hearing the white house touting the fact that millions are signing up for this. of course they are. millions are signing up for this because whether they're eligible or not, they're getting a subsidy. who wouldn't want to get a check from the government every month for something that's -- but is done through fraud. it's done through waste. it's done through something that
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hasn't been documented. people have to realize under obama care you have to be a citizen or legal resident and fall within a certain income range. and healthcare.gov is supposed to verify all this when you sign up. but the g.a.o. found that the program does not check new applications against existing approved applications and the resulting failure is that multiple people have been approved for benefits while using the same social security number. so here's another situation. not only are people using false social security numbers or don't have social security numbers or put it on the application and they're still getting subsidies but a lot of people are using the same social security number. now, you know, this is not the era of having mountains of paperwork stored in warehouses around washington, d.c. because the agencies have been flooded with paper applications. this is an age of computerizing
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and digitizing all of this information so all you have to do is push a button to find out whether that's a legitimate social security number or whether it has a social security number. i mean, how hard is it? to make matters worse now, we've learned that in thousands of obama care applications, it wasn't even clear if the beneficiary was serving a prison sentence. the law basically says you're not eligible for this if you're serving a prison sentence. g.a.o. found that the center for medicare, medicaid services ignored many opportunities they said for reducing obama care fraud and says that c.m.s. foregoes information that could suggest potential program issues of potential vulnerabilities such as those receiving benefits while they're in prison. basically it appears that c.m.s. is one to look the other way. maybe they were ordered.
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maybe they're just doing it or maybe they're just purely incompetent but they're looking the other way as the president continues to tout the benefits of this law and don't worry, we have verification before we use up -- waste any taxpayer's money and think what a wonderful thing this is. if that wasn't -- if this isn't bad enough, g.a.o. also found the c.m.s. actually knew that millions of applicants were potentially fraudulent. and still approved the applications. yeah, i'm not making this up. we have information here provided by general accountability office that the center for medicaid and medicare knew about these fraudulent practices. so they couldn't plead, well, we didn't know this was happening or this was a computer glitch or we're just so overwhelmed with paperwork or accomplisheses that -- applications that we can't handle it all. no, they knew about it. they knew it was happening and yet they still haven't cleared
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it up. and now what really drives you up the wall -- and it is no wonder the american people are so unbelievably frustrated with this government and have deemed that this government is simply wasting their tax dollars, the most bureaucratic mess they've ever seen, and they're paying for it. it just practically makes you want to scream. c.m.s. told g.a.o. -- quote -- "they currently do not plan to take any actions on individuals with unresolved incarceration or social security number inconsistencies." does anybody find that outrageous? you know that there's a problem. you've documented that there's a problem. but we currently are not willing to undertake any kind of reforms or action to deal with this
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situation. to address this mess, i'll introduce legislation that will mandate c.m.s. to recoup all improperly paid subsidies. and i'm going to continue to press the agency to take actions to enforce the existing requirements. what does it take to get the congress to take the steps to insist that these agencies that have been entrusted with taxpayer money to carry out their programs act in such a cavalier, dismissive way? what does it take? well, i guess what it takes is what's happening in our election process right now. and that is the demonstration of the absolute "we've had enough, we're blazing mad, and we ought to tate tear the place down andt
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all over" because this behemoth of a dysfunctional government continues to rob hard-erned money and it is not providing job opportunities for people, despite all the best efforts of this administration. it kind of reminds you back of when this thing was being debated in the house of representatives and the then-speaker of the house said, well, you know, we have to pass this bill so that we can find out what's in it. well, ms. former speaker of the house of representatives, we're finding out not only what's in this bill, but we're also finding out just bureaucratic ex-queues for an efficient, effective -- excuse for an efficient, effective government is handing the enforcement of this to ensure that waste, fraud, and abuse is not occurring. so once again i'm down here
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adding to the ever-growing amount of money that falls under the documented -- the documented waste, fraud, and abuse that this government is doing relative to the taxpayer money. today we stand at a level of $157 billion of documented waste, fraud, and abuse, and we're just scratching the surface. i probably could come down here every hour of every day the senate is in session and point out another waste of taxpayer money. when are we going to step up to the plate and stop this charade that's happening here? when are we going to deal with this problem? i'm urging my colleagues to support my efforts and other efforts to try to at least -- at least address known, documented problems of waste, fraud, and abuse. mr. secretary -- mr. president, i yield and notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk should call the roll.
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quorum call:
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quorum call: are you saying that he's not taking politics into account at all when thinking about the possibility of having a court that would have regular justices instead of five conservative justices? >> well look, as i acknowledged, when i answer your first question, politics are going to be part of this in a election-year. i don't think i dispute that. i don't think so. the president made clear he's not

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